John Grimwood’s books of the year
Author of The Last Banquet
In a good year, with new novels from Donna Tartt – as yet unread – and Colm Tóibín, the standout for me is the extraordinary Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Doubleday). It reprises one life, often brutally cut short, time and again until the main character eventually reaches old age. A brilliant conceit and a masterpiece of narrative structure, this book made me sick with envy.
Antoine Laurain takes a much slighter conceit – that wearing Mitterrand’s fedora confers the president’s gravitas and intellect, and perfectly re-creates 1980s France. Funny, touching and just the right side of whimsical, The President’s Hat (Gallic Books) is clever enough to remain in the mind long after the single sitting it takes to read.
Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins (Penguin) ropes together Hollywood, 1960s cinema and postwar Italy to produce a commercial novel with strong literary sensibilities – also impressive.
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